Essex

Two Dozen Fun Things To Do with NJ Kids on Columbus Day

If you're scratching your head to come up with some fun ways to spend Columbus Day with kids who are home from school, look no further. We've pulled together a list of 20 fun family outings that NJ kids are bound to love, from picking pumpkins to visiting sea turtles. You can find many more options in our Fall Fun Guide, and if the weather's looking iffy, check out our Indoor Playspace Guide for a backup plan!

Cool Pumpkin Displays, Festivals, and Decorating Events in NJ

Are your kids already preparing for Halloween, with visions of candy, costumes, and pumpkins dancing in their heads? Kick off the festive fall season at one of the many wonderful pumpkin-themed events happening around NJ, from elaborate pumpkin exhibits and carving competitions to good old-fashioned pumpkin picking and decorating fun.

Read on for our top picks, plus a bonus event that’s worth a drive across the state line. You can find even more even seasonal events in our Fall Fun Guide

Harvest Festivals, Hayrides, and Fall Fair Fun in New Jersey

The air is crisp, the apples are ripe, and fall fair and harvest festival season is about to get underway! We've rounded up two dozen great harvest fests in New Jersey, all packed with signature autumn activities like hayrides, corn mazes, pumpkin decorating (and picking), pie contests, scarecrow making, live animals, live music, and more. Some even incorporate a little early Halloween fun.

Read on to find an event near you, including the Great Pumpkin Festival, the Fall Festival at Spruce Street Harbor Park, the Blackwood Pumpkin Festival, and more.

For more seasonal activities around the Garden State, be sure to check out our Fall Fun Guide and our list of 35 Things We Can't Wait To Do with NJ Kids This Fall

Amazing Corn Mazes at New Jersey Farms

Get ready… get set… get lost in an amazing New Jersey corn maze! The Garden State is home to oodles of spectacular corn mazes, ranging from massive 10-acre labyrinths to simpler, child-friendly courses, including hay bale mazes just right for toddlers and preschoolers. Games, clues, and even techie bonuses enhance many of the more elaborate maze experiences. Got a tween or teen? Check out courses that are open after hours for a nighttime and sometimes spooky adventure.

Many of these 16 corn mazes we've rounded up are day trip–worthy on their own, but you'll also likely find apple and pumpkin picking options, hayrides, and even fall festivals, plus petting zoos in some instances. So get out your fall to-do list, and navigate your way through one of these great New Jersey corn mazes. Check out our Fall Fun Guide for NJ Kids to find even more ways to enjoy the crisp autumn days.

Best Fall Fairs and Festivals for NJ Families in September

As the carefree days of summer draw to a close, NJ families can look forward to plenty of fun in the Garden State this fall. Explore nature at the NJ Wild Outdoor Expo, chow down on delicious seafood at the Atlantic City Seafood Festival, or listen to some exciting tales at the NJ Storytelling Festival.

Check out the 17 awesome festivals below, and visit our Events Calendar and September GoList for more fabulous fall ideas, or head over to our just released Fall Fun Guide if you're already envisioning fall foliage and that pumpkin spice.

Greenwood Gardens: A Sweet (and Cheap) Day Trip to Short Hills, NJ

Short Hills, New Jersey, might be most famous for its luxury brand–filled mall, or as one of the country’s most affluent towns. But tucked among its winding backroads, you’ll find one of New Jersey’s most charming public gardens, Greenwood Gardens.

The seasonal 28-acre garden is filled with little nature trails, water features, sculptures, and even a few barnyard animals.

If you’re looking for a sweet, low-key, non-commercial day trip with Jersey kids of any age, Greenwood Gardens is a great bet. Bonus: It’s free for kids under age 12. Read on for our full review, and find more zoos and gardens in our local New Jersey guide for families.

New Jersey Restaurants Where Kids Eat Free

Who says there’s no such thing as a free meal? Restaurants throughout New Jersey offer free kid meal promotions nearly every night of the week. (Basically, you never have to cook again.) Visit your favorite family-friendly restaurant on a kids-eat-free night, and you won’t have to worry about overspending on kids’ entrees, especially the ones that are barely touched. Check out some of these New Jersey dining spots that feature free kid meals on certain nights of the week. 

Best STEM Classes for New Jersey Kids

Is your child interested in exploring the "hows," "whys," and "what-ifs" of the world around them? STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) enrichment classes can be a wonderful way to foster their curiosity and help them think critically and creatively. We've rounded up 11 NJ enrichment programs that offer instruction in coding, robotics, architecture, engineering, chess, and more. 

The Best NJ Zoos and Aquariums for Animal Encounters with Kids

Treat your kids to a real animal adventure at one of New Jersey's amazing zoos, aquariums, and animal preserves. At these day trip–worthy spots, little animal lovers can meet their favorite furry friend, check out exotic wildlife from other continents, or swim with the sharks (yes, really!). We've rounded up the best places in the Garden State for New Jersey kids to have an up-close-and-personal encounter with animals of every kind. 

Beat the Heat at the Watsessing Park Splash Playground in East Orange, NJ

After months of construction, the highly anticipated Watsessing Park Spray Park opened on July 20. Located on Glenwood Avenue near Dodd Street in East Orange, the 3,000-square-foot addition to the 69-acre park provides deep sea–themed water adventures to keep your kids cool this summer.

While New Jersey residents are no stranger to the cheap thrills provided by local spraygrounds, those living in Essex County have been forced to drive to neighboring communities for free water fun. But thanks to this new spray park, now you can cool off not too far from your own backyard.

Making its debut right in the middle of a string of 90-plus-degree days, I couldn't think of a better place to take my 4-year-old daughter to beat the heat. With her swimsuit on and beach towels in tow, we were excited to check out this cool new spot.

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